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Quantum Computing: A New Era for the Life Sciences?

Quantum computing has made some big promises. From the unveiling of the human body’s hidden secrets to near-instantaneous disease prediction systems – we’re not there yet, but the new frontier of computing might be closer than you think.

Recent breakthroughs in the world of quantum mechanical entanglement represent a scaling up of sorts, and IBM are reported to have a quantum computer available for commercial sale by as early as 2025.

Is it too much hype? Or does this new tech represent a new dawn for the life sciences? Newsweek said the internet wouldn’t catch on back in 1995, making what we now know as one of the worst predictions ever made. Here’s what quantum computing could have in store for the life sciences in the (not-too-distant) future.

Extreme Efficiency

The life sciences give the term data-driven a run for its buzzword status, and that’s just in clinical trials alone. Leveraging the trillions of gigabytes of medical data is no small feat, but in theory, it’s something that quantum computers could handle easily enough, or at least, easier than traditional computers.

Quantum Computers are not limited to the binary system of their conventional counterparts, instead they rely on quantum superposition (a principle that allows information to exist in multiple states simultaneously before it’s recovered and measured), essentially expanding on the limitations of binary.

What on earth does this mean? It means that fewer steps will need to be taken by the quantum computer to access and store data, speeding up the process and reducing the amount of power needed to interpret large data sets.

A good example of this would be Google’s Sycamore Quantum computer - In 2019, Google claimed that their quantum computer solved an ‘infeasible’ problem in just 200 seconds, a problem that would’ve taken a conventional computer 10,000 years to tackle.

Among other factors, faster large-scale data interpretation could mean:

·      Vastly More Efficient Clinical Trials

·      Optimised Drug Discovery Processes

·      Faster Disease Detection

·      Improved Accuracy of Treatment

·      Better Risk Management

Better Patient Outcomes

Better patient outcomes mean a healthier, happier humanity. It’s the ultimate goal of medicine, and much of the work done in the life sciences is solely focused on it. Quantum computers have the potential to drastically improve patient outcomes, whether it’s improved medical imaging analysis or personalised medicine, the agility and speed of computing’s era can be transformative.

A prime example of this can be seen through individual genetic mapping and patient treatment plans – Quantum computers have the potential to analyse the huge data sets that make up patient data, from medical history to their genomic information, and they can do this in real-time, enabling consistent treatment updates as the patient’s health status changes.

Improved Small Molecule Drug Design

Drug design and discovery is a crucial part of medicine, and it’s home to some of the most cutting-edge computational techniques found anywhere in the life sciences. Traditional algorithms are limited to the analysis of larger molecules, a limitation that quantum computers will not have.

Better molecule analysis can lead to a greater level of accuracy when identifying shared traits between molecules, ultimately delivering more insight in the race to expedite drug discovery.

What Does it Mean for Jobs in the Life Sciences?

As with the introduction of any game-changing technological advancement, exciting new career opportunities are lining up on the horizon for the life sciences, but what exactly will these jobs look like?

From data engineers and architects to bioprocessing, manufacturing and every aspect of drug discovery, quantum computing looks set to reshape the working world.

Here at BioTalent, we’re always on the lookout to partner with future-facing, tech-enabled companies, and we can’t wait to see what the future of quantum computing has in store. If you’re hoping to hire some top talent in the ever-evolving life sciences space, reach out to the team today – through our diversity-led hiring methodology, we can help you build the business that seizes tomorrow’s opportunities.